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First Look: Fitbit announces new Fitbit Alta activity tracker

Fitbit-Alta-Front-Black-Band

Today Fitbit announced their latest activity tracker – the Fitbit Alta.  This unit is effectively a replacement for the existing Fitbit Charge (or previous to that, the Force).  However, unlike those, this unit sports smartphone notifications,  move reminders, and the ability to auto-recognize workouts (the Charge/Charge HR only has caller ID).  It also goes vintage and re-gains the ability to change your bands for various options, like the old Fitbit Flex.

The Basics:

Fitbit-Alta-Back-Black-Band

The Fitbit Alta comes almost exactly one month after Fitbit’s announcement of the Fitbit Blaze at CES, which is their higher end ‘smart fitness watch’.  There are actually a number of similarities between the two units, from battery life to notification capabilities.  For example, both units get about 5 days of battery on a single charge, and both carry with it the new auto-recognize functionality.  Though, only the Alta has move alerts. And lastly, both units feature tap/touch capable screens (the Alta’s being an OLED mono-color display, whereas the Blaze is full color LCD).

Fitbit-Alta-Front-Leather-Band

On the downside, neither is waterproofed terribly well, claiming only 1ATM waterproofing – or effectively a non-official variant of IPX7.  That means it’ll usually be fine in the shower, but definitely isn’t something you’d take swimming (or high diving).  Further, neither unit includes the ability to do true/proper smartphone notifications.  Instead, both rely on just text and phone alerts – which is completely opposite what the entire rest of the industry has done (this means you can’t get things like Twitter or Snapchat notifications).

I feel like there’s gotta be some single person at Fitbit that’s horribly against proper smartphone notifications.  You know when you’re at work, and there’s always someone (we’ll call him Bob), that’s been upset about the change in coffee filters for years, despite everyone else already moving past it and well beyond caring.  That’s Fitbit with proper smartphone notifications.  The excuse of ‘trying to keep things simple’ holds about as much water as a Starbucks napkin.  Luckily, once they decide to move onto the first phase of acceptance, it’s a relatively trivial software update to add to these devices.

Now, that quibble aside – from a spec and usability standpoint, the unit actually does a good job at balancing features and form.  For example, it includes changeable bands – something the Fitbit Charge/Charge HR lacked.  You can simply pop the bands on and off.  Below I’ve got a brown leather, and black band option.  But there’s also a bangle available too.

The accessory bands are $29 for the ‘classic’ colored bands.  Then $59 for the leather bands (like the one seen above), and finally $99 for the stainless steel bangles.

As for the bands, they are much smaller than the Fitbit Charge/Charge HR – or even the equally pretty display of the Polar A360:

Fitbit-Charge-Fitbit-Alta-Compare

Fitbit-Charge-Fitbit-Alta-PolarA360

The two band sides snap in using a clever little push-button system, and then the bands hold together with a double-holed clasp.  I’d rate it pretty darn resilient to accidental removals.

Fibit-Alta-Back-Leather-Clasp

You can see how it fits here on a women’s wrist (The Girl’s, to be precise).  She was impressed with the size of it.

Fitbit-Alta-Womens-Wrist2

Now at $129, it lacks an optical HR sensor like the Charge HR has.  Given the size of the unit, I’m honestly not sure where they’d fit one in with expanding it.  This thing isn’t much bigger than a few pieces of Good & Plenty candy tied together.

Its new inactivity/move alerts match what the rest of the competition has had for years, namely Garmin & Polar first, and more recently competitors like Apple, Microsoft and Under Armour.

Now despite the size, it’s actually a bit heavier than the Fitbit Charge.  I weighed it in at 29g, versus the Fitbit Charge coming in at 20g:

Fitbit-Alta-Weight-Size

Fitbit views this unit as a bit of a complement to the Fitbit Surge for athletes.  So the thinking is that you’d wear the Fitbit Surge during your workout, but might switch back to this for the rest of your day.  To aide in that process, Fitbit does have the capability to auto-switch between up to 7 activity trackers dynamically during the day.  So it’ll simply figure out which unit your using and grab the step/activity data from that, allowing you to have a complete picture of your day.

Fitbit-Alta-Fitbit-Blaze

That’s one area that competitors (such as Garmin & Polar) have faltered at delivering on.  For those companies you need to specify a single device to be your ‘activity tracker’.

FitbitAltaFrontLED

Finally, as noted earlier, the display is an OLED tap display.  It’ll automatically turn on/off based on your wrist movements (just like the Fitbit Blaze).  Like most companies, Fitbit does this to save battery on otherwise power-hungry displays.  In my case, the unit I tried was not powered, so I was unable to get a good feel for how reactive the display is, or how well it would work if wet  (such as with sweat or a light rain).

Fitbit-Alta-Fitbit-Blaze-Off

The unit will start shipping in March, roughly when the Fitbit Blaze is expected to become available.

As for whether or not to get the Alta – I think it really goes back to my usual statement on keeping your activity tracker in the same family as the rest of your health/fitness devices.  For example, if you have a Fitbit scale – then it likely makes sense to keep the activity tracker Fitbit.  Whereas if you have a Garmin scale, then it doesn’t make much sense to get a Fitbit tracker.  And the inverse is true as well.

With that – thanks for reading! 

Update! You can now pre-order the Fitbit Alta through either Amazon or Clever Training – both support the site! If you order through Clever Training, you’ll also save 10% on your order and get free US shipping, simply use DCR Reader coupon code DCR10MHD.

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107 Comments

  1. Craig Santelman

    “For example, if you have a Fitbit scale – then it likely makes sense to keep the activity tracker Fitbit. Whereas if you have a Garmin scale, then it makes little sense to get a Fitbit tracker. And the inverse is true as well.”

    Don’t you mean “Whereas if you have a Garmin scale, then it makes little sense to get a Garmin tracker.”

    Reply
    • It’s actually correct. Because, I’m saying it doesn’t make much sense to get a Garmin tracker if you have a Fitbit scale. (little sense). But, I could see how it might be confusing. I’ll tweak.

      Reply
    • Sylvester Jakubowski

      My Fitbit scale syncs great to MFP and onto Garmin Connect from there. No issues. Garmin everything else pretty much in the household (810,fenix 2, vivosmart, etc)

      Reply
    • Graham

      it syncs weight – if you can find a way to get body fat into GC i will be indebted

      Reply
    • James

      I use an android app called “weight logger” by Sébastien Vrillaud. You can enter your weight and body fat % in the app and it can push an export to Garmin Connect.

      I don’t think there’s an iOS version, although I may be wrong.

      Reply
  2. Matthew B.

    The lack of full notifications seems to be like them attempting an Apple-like “we know what consumers want better than they do” and I couldn’t agree more that it’s completely misguided on their next generation of devices. I understood it sort of on the small screens of the Charge and even the Surge, but now it’s one of the major things holding me back from making the Fitbit Blaze my day to day watch.

    Meh, perhaps the F3 HR will claim that role.

    Reply
    • Bruce Burkhalter

      Working in tech, I usually see it being an issue of resources and prioritization. Product Managers usually want way more features than the Engineering team (and the schedule) can deliver. You might think Fitbit has “unlimited” engineering and QA to work on this but it usually isn’t the case. It usually is a prioritization game with the schedule determining what you have time to do.

      I also wouldn’t be surprised if they hacked in notification support and now trying to make it support all types of notifications is taking time. It could be that the new devices are on a new(er) HW/SW platform that took a lot of their Engineering budget.

      Also, you would be surprised how much work it is “under the hood” to get things we take for granted to work. Bluetooth and GPS often require a ton of work on the developer side to work smoothly and properly. You might think you just make a call to get the current GPS location and store it. As Ray has pointed out, there is often a lot of GPS fixing/smoothing/adjusting the developer has to do. Same with Bluetooth (most evident on the Android side).

      In general, I just assume stuff like this is the result of issues we all face and not some designed “master plan”. If I had to bet, I think Fitbit would love to have all notifications on the device the day it shipped.

      Reply
    • Matthew B.

      It’s very possible and this “we like to keep things simple” is just saving face, but I have a hard time believing that incredibly small companies can come up with full smart notifications on their smart watches but Fitbit, the largest wearable company at the moment, cannot.

      Reply
    • Bsquared

      Also work in tech, and hack around with iOS in my spare time. While I fundamentally agree with your resource comment, the way it works in iOS is that once a Bluetooth device has subscribed to notifications, you have access to all notifications that are forwarded by the iOS Notification Center. This was a conscious decision by Fitbit to ignore all but a few notifications being forwarded by Notification Center. In addition no app is required on iOS, its part of the operating system. Both iOS and Android make it easy for a Bluetooth device to accept all notifications thru their respective Notification Centers.

      Reply
    • Bruce Burkhalter

      All fair points and I’m not saying I’m right or have inside info. I just usually assume the reasons have more to do with time/effort/money than philosophical. I bet Fitbit has support for those notifications in an update before the end of the year (though I would guess by summer). Now the reason behind it could be market pressure or just being late with the feature.

      Small companies sometimes have an advantage of being quick and agile. I have worked with and for large companies that one would think have their act together but have really broken processes and resource issues. Fitbit may need to qualify the changes across all their devices before shipping on one of them.

      Regarding BT, defer to your knowledge regarding notifications. Is weird if it is that easy. My point was more that the BT stack on Android has been buggy and not fully supported. On iOS it is a lot better but it is still a lot of work to properly handle BT dropouts, reconnects, errors, etc. Somewhat tangential to notifications but point being that this stuff requires a lot of work and continual effort.

      Reply
    • Molly G

      I work for Garmin as a Fitness support agent supporting Forerunner/Edge/Vivo/Vector etc. Have to say the Bluetooth situation has been much better for Android over iOS. Lately the iOS/BLE seems to be improved but the story has been the same for awhile- pairing issues with iOS/Edge devices, Live Track dropouts, sync failures, devices disconnecting and not reconnecting. Can’t say I’ve seen nearly the problems with Android that we have seen with iOS. This is strictly anecdotal but the inside scoop is that the iOS 64 bit OS has been more troublesome for the developers and we have been struggling in support to try to fix peoples issues. We have been advising people to update their iOS version because sometimes we can’t otherwise figure out what is causing certain problems.

      Reply
    • Kyle

      The BT stack in Android is completely fine now. Yes a couple years ago it was a mess. But ever since Android 4.3 and on its been fine. There is no reason for developers to have problems now, if they do they are being lazy or not getting the most up to date information

      Reply
    • Ifor

      The BT LE stack under Android is still a total mess. The 4.3 release added the support in for BLE but it was buggy as hell and should never of been released in the state it was in. Google have still not got half the bugs fixed. I can point you at a selection of bug reports if your really interested. You can just about reliably make one device work provided you don’t mind rebooting your phone every week or two. Getting 2 or 3 to work at the same tame is a lot more complex as you work around the myriad of bugs.

      Reply
    • David

      Actually when it comes to iOS I think this is completely untrue. iOS and the API’s they are working with by default send all notifications in the same form. The *easiest* thing is to simply show all of them. Fitbit is actually parsing them behind the scenes to ensure they only show call/text/calendar notifications.

      Reply
    • David

      I have always assumed (possibly incorrectly) that any device which doesn’t support full notifications is not connecting directly to the OS. I assume that the app on the phone is connecting to the notification center, and then “forwarding” the desired data, possibly in a custom format, not as a true BLE notification.

      Reply
    • Kyle

      Half those bugs are because they are old devices or its user fault. Restarting device? The only BT problem I have is with my Suunto watch disconnecting after a period of time. Everything else is completely fine…multiple Hr monitors, Android wear watch, car stereo, BT headphones, Fitbit band, etc. If your phone has atleast lollpop on it (5.0) there shouldn’t be many issues. Especially if you have one of the big brands, Samsung, LG,Motorollas, Nexus.

      Reply
    • Nikki

      Well said, I believe many people don’t understand the engineering behind this watch. Actually, pretty impressive piece of technology with it’s functions programmed into a tiny fitness tracker.

      Reply
    • tfa

      yeap, and doesn’t look like from the last century like vivosmart!

      Reply
  3. Travis Atkinson

    Why can’t Fitbit put in proper water proofing? So apparently “Bob” is against Water Proofing too! I can’t count the number of people who tell me their Fitbit died after a rainstorm or getting splashed doing dishes etc. You can pick up a $15 Casio at Walmart that’s waterproof to 50M, I don’t get it?

    Reply
    • Matthew B.

      I’ve often wondered this as well, but my guess is they’ve done a cost/risk analysis on:

      1) The cost of making their watch waterproof (R&D plus actual costs);

      VS

      2) The cost of replacing consumers watches when they complain it was damaged by water.

      Most consumers will never need true 50m waterproofing on a “day to day” watch that doesn’t track swimming or anything like that. Yes, some people won’t purchase, but again, I’m sure they’ve run the numbers on whether that makes fiscal sense or not.

      Fitbit will (almost without exception) replace a unit damaged or sometimes even just lost, so I’m guessing number 2 has been determined to be cheaper in the long run for them.

      Reply
    • Travis Atkinson

      I’m sure that could be true, but I’m not sure the cost is that great when you consider Garmin does it on all of their devices including the much cheaper Vivofit line. And as stated previously if a $15 Casio can do it with more buttons/ingress points, why can’t Fitbit/Jawbone figure it out. Misfit and Garmin and Polar to a lesser degree seem to be the only ones to care. My point is that if I’m spending north of $100 for something I’m supposed to be wearing on my wrist 24×7 it better survive a dunk in the pool. Perhaps it’s because I live in AZ and dunks in the pool are a regular thing here.

      IMO Fitbit/Jawbone are just lazy with their quality control and design.

      Reply
    • Jon

      So far Fitbit has replaced 4 Charges for me. It looks like #5 will be happening soon.

      All replacements appeared to be due to running in the cold weather causing moisture to collect inside the device, which in turn eventually causes a short that prevents it from maintaining a charge. “Running in the cold” shouldn’t be beyond the water-proof abilities of a fitness device. Maybe the Alta will at least pull that off. Progress is progress after all.

      As an aside, Fitbit customer service has been great.

      Reply
    • Bsquared

      Fitbit customer service is great, until the warranty expires. Then Fitbit’s flawed band design and lack of waterproofing become your problem.

      Reply
    • Matthew B.

      Except that they still replace items long after the warranty has expired.

      Reply
    • xtmar

      Perhaps, to be somewhat cynical, they figure that if they break and are good about replacing them for people who complain, they’ll still have a good reputation, because people aren’t complaining, but will sell more replacement units to people who can’t be bothered to get warranty work done.

      Harbor Freight, while obviously in a different area, sort of has this model. They make things as cheap as possible, but are very good about returns/refunds for the people who bother.

      Reply
    • Bsquared

      Matthew,

      Re: Fitbit replacement policy – I still have a Surge, and frequent the forums. Fitbit will only replace a damaged Surge unit if the following are true:
      – original owner with proof of purchase
      – purchased from authorized reseller
      – within warranty period

      The Surge forums have numerous posts of users complaining after Fitbit support refused to replace outside of warranty. We are just starting to see warranty expiration policy in the US as warranty is 1 year. For the last year we’ve seen plenty of people complain about lack of warranty if it was purchased used, or if purchased from eBay or even a local outdoors store that is not an authorized reseller. Here is one of many posts that I could point you to:
      link to community.fitbit.com

      Point is, its not isolated, and as a policy Fitbit is not standing behind the defective Surge band design once 1 year warranty expires even if you are original purchaser and bought from an authorized reseller.

      A lot of pissed off Surge owners, especially the ones that have received 2 or 3 replacements for failed bands and their 1 year warranty is about to expire. A lot of posts about failed bands. I suspect the HR inaccuracy class action lawsuit will soon be followed by defective band class action lawsuit.

      Reply
    • Bsquared

      Jon,

      Read your comment with interest:

      ===
      All replacements appeared to be due to running in the cold weather causing moisture to collect inside the device, which in turn eventually causes a short that prevents it from maintaining a charge. “Running in the cold” shouldn’t be beyond the water-proof abilities of a fitness device.
      ===

      That would also explain the rapid increase in number of battery issues being reported on the Surge forum.

      Reply
    • Regina

      I so agree with you. Why can’t they waterproof the Fitbit and show your sleep pattern in a 24 hr clock like Polar. If Polar had challenges and an easy way to connect with friends and heart rate tracking without a strap. I would have never gotten the Surge.

      Reply
    • Shane

      You’ve had 4 Fitbit’s fails, and you’re still getting another one?… Maybe time to try another brand, say Garmin? They’re pretty indestructible and offer considerably better features.

      Have you ever head the saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”?

      Reply
    • Sheila Lawrence

      Three of them were free replacements. In the UK we have a two year warranty. It would be silly not to take advantage.

      Reply
    • JLO

      I don’t know what Fitbit’s you are referring too but my Charge I take a shower in all the time and have been in a pool with it and have not had one problem with it.

      Reply
    • Consider yourself lucky, since none are designed for swimming in the pool (explicitly stated in the warranty/specs). Some models have better waterproofing specs than others, but ‘better’ in this case is still pretty poor.

      Reply
  4. Trickycoolj

    Don’t forget Jawbone was one of the earliest with a move indicator. Unfortunately their hardware reliability never did improve.

    Reply
  5. EB

    Penultimate sentence

    “Whereas if you have a Garmin scale, then it doesn’t make much to get a Fitbit tracker”

    After ‘much’ missing word, presumably ‘sense’?

    Reply
    • EB

      Actually, re-read it. My mistake. Trying to be helpful (&quick). Sorry. I think I’d still insert the word ‘sense’, but it is marginal.

      Reply
  6. Adam

    Nice to see you already have a Blaze for testing. :-)

    Reply
  7. In addition to “Bob” at Fitbit who is against change there must be a “Bill” at Garmin who likes to release devices with faulty software. Sometime later , or much later the software gets fixed. Frankly, despite being a Garmin wearer for many years I am considering a Fitbit Blaze or Alta in the hope that the software is basically bug-free out of the box.

    Reply
    • Bsquared

      Good luck avoiding bugs, Fitbit has its share of software problems too. You should visit the Fitbit forums.

      Reply
    • tfa

      yeap, and then there is Mr. (let’s call them G) who knows the old coffee filters and of course he knows what a https protocol is but decided it’s a cool thing not to use it and send all personal activity and geo-location data including the user ID via a unsecured http protocol to the Garmin servers, this is of course completely opposite what the entire rest of the industry does via the https protocol and certificate pinning in their data transmission … (rest means Apple, Intel/Basis, Fitbit, Jawbone, Mio, Withings and Xiaomi)

      … in case anybody here wonder why this came today:
      link to garmin.blogs.com

      Reply
  8. jim Feldesman

    I do enjoy your reviews. As to your comments on the new Fitbit Alta and discussing the Blaze. The Blaze does notify you to move. That is a huge plus for the Alta. I personally have the Charge HR after having had the the original UP 24 and did try the UP 3. I had many blue tooth issue with them. However, I did like the website, the get off your ass notification and their comments. I then went to Garman vivosmart. Not bad, in sunlight it was tough and then had some issues and since then I have been with Fitbit Charge HR. The only thing I miss is the inactivity vibrate.
    Quickly, I am 62 and have changed my life with 55 ibs drop and body fat to about 16. Still want to get leaner. I can not run, but use the elliptical and workout with weights and body movements.
    As to your last comment, I agree, but when I started Jawbone recommended the Withings scale. It worked very well with the UP and have used every day since. It only connected to Garmin thru My Fitness Pal, but does interface with Fitbit and is better rated by CR than Fitbit scale. If I had not purchased it back then I would agree with you.
    When I workout I do use my heart rate, so I wear either my wahoo strap or my MIo Link.
    I do miss the inactivity, not sure I want a watch as I wear a nice watch . I have been mulling looking at the blaze. I think the Apple is nice, but Fitbit better suites the fitness in me. I would really like to talk this out out if possible.

    Reply
    • Bsquared

      Hi Jim,

      You wanted to talk it out, here are my thoughts and experiences.

      The inactivity notices will be initially delivered in Alta, and then Blaze per a Fitbit forum moderator:
      “At this time, this is an Alta only feature. We’re also working to make this feature available in a future firmware release for Fitbit Blaze, but don’t yet have an estimated delivery date.”

      In addition to band/waterproofing issues, I’ve also had issues with Fitbit calorie estimation. I’m a few years behind you in age, with similar goals. Mostly cycle/spin about 100 miles per week, lift weights, and some bodyweight stuff. After turning 50 changed my life by starting to walk and count calories, and during this time the Fitbit calorie estimates were good and their system helped me lose 30 pounds. But the last 15 pounds wouldn’t come off until I started cycling and lifting, and thats when Fitbit’s calorie estimates stopped working for me. I’m an engineer, my wild guess is that Fitbit algorithms are tuned to walking and the ‘just get up an move’ crowd, again just a guess. The Surge optical HR did a bad job tracking HR and calorie estimates were off. Manually tracking spinning in Fitbit app/website for 1 hour spinning fast/hard – I entered distance as 22 miles (220 watts on the power meter) – was unbelievably low 229 calories!?!?! Meanwhile Wahoo, Garmin and Apple Watch all estimate 700-1200 calories depending on the effort. And Fitbit’s elevation tracking for cycling is broken, so much that on the Fitbit web dashboard they made the elevation chart a small window and it isn’t synced with the timeline. The Surge/Strava integration is a one-way street, track with Surge (no sensor support, HR inaccurate for me) and ride is pushed to Strava. You can’t track in Strava and get a workout on Fitbit site. Surge has been out a year, and cycling is still a 2nd class feature with broken features.

      I’ve given up on the idea of a Fitbit or similar tracker. My iPhone 5s counts steps, only useful for the occasional Fitbit competition, and with iPhone 5s as Fitbit tracker I get decent step credit while cycling or pushing a shopping cart (versus Surge that doesn’t give credit). My Apple Watch pushes notices (that I chose) to my wrist, really saves me a lot of time during the day to quickly review and dismiss the majority of notices (versus pulling out my phone and getting distracted). And I wear a chest strap while cycling and spinning to get accurate HR while doing over/under intervals and other threshold work to improve my cycling in the limited number of hours I have during the week to train. I was initially excited about sleep tracking when I bought my Fitbit Force, but reality is I can’t do anything about sleep and quickly gave up wearing it at night.

      If one tracker motivates you over another, and you are satisfied with features, then don’t overthink it and get what works for you. Now that you’ve tried a bunch, you should have a good idea of which features matter. The Blaze looks mildly interesting, as I always carry my phone, but my Apple Watch is more versatile and powerful. And I take off my watch at night so its charged every night just like my phone.

      Hope that helps a bit.

      Reply
  9. Eli

    “In my case, the unit I tried was not powered”
    So this review is based on a paperweight? I’m confused

    Reply
    • It’s not a review. You know that.

      It’s simply an overview of a new product on the market.

      Reply
  10. Bsquared

    Happy to see Fitbit is finally embracing replaceable bands. However I’m done, every Fitbit I’ve owned has band problems. The Flex band would start smelling in the summer, and the band failed within 4 months. However the band was replaceable. The Force band failed within 5 months, and I sent it back and received a refund as part of the Fitbit recall. The Surge band is failing for a lot of folks, and if you visit the Fitbit forums you’ll learn that anyone beyond the 1 year warranty is being told to buy another one. There are also a fair number of complaints about moisture in the display. In addition the Surge HRM has never been accurate for me while cycling and spinning, despite recent updates. I can understand HRM accuracy issues while weight lifting, however I don’t flex my wrists while spinning so that one is a real head scratcher.

    My final issue with Fitbit – their definition of “fitness” appears to be 10,000 steps. Competitions? All step based. Use the Surge and get a few hundred (best case 1000) steps for cycling 50 miles just below my threshold. Pace around my office while on conference calls and get 10,000 steps. According to Fitbit pacing around my office is better than cycling a few hours below my threshold.

    Reply
    • JohnP

      You second paragraph is on point, If I ride on my indoor bike trainer/rollers the only way to track it with fitbit is to call it spinning. You can’t add miles, distance, cadence … etc. That’s just one example I could go on …I gave my Surge away that’s how useless it was to me.

      Reply
    • Bsquared

      Fitbit can’t even get calorie estimation of spinning correct. There are two manual spinning entries, one with mileage and one without. Checkout the differences for a one hour spin. I’ve compared to MET table, Garmin, Wahoo Fitness, and Apple Watch. My typical one-hour spinning session burns 700-1200 calories, depending on effort. I’ve reported the issue to Fitbit 18 months ago and they made it worse when recently adding the 2nd manual spinning entry – originally you only entered time, then they created 2nd spinning entry so you could add mileage.

      Reply
  11. Chris C

    “That’s one area that competitors (such as Garmin & Polar) have faltered at delivering on. For those companies you need to specify a single device to be your ‘activity tracker’.”

    Ray – do you see Garmin or Polar implementing this auto-device-detection any time soon or does FitBit have a lock on this concept? Really like that feature.

    Reply
  12. Mark

    So the Flex & Charge become the Alta, and the Surge becomes the Blaze. Does that mean there is a Charge HR replacement on the horizon for Q2? Or do they expect the Blaze to take that over too…

    Reply
    • Bsquared

      Charge HR becomes the Blaze, as the Blaze does not have GPS.

      Reply
  13. Adam

    Also, in regards to multiple activity trackers, Polar Flow will combine multiple trackers. You can wear the A360 in the morning, and a V800 at night if you want and everything will be combined into the Polar Flow app/service. The problem is that that information is no synced back to the trackers themselves so you see a discrepancy.

    Reply
  14. Rfb

    Looks like a good alternative to a vivosmart though it is not waterproof to the same extent. It would be good to see if it has the same problem as the vivosmart oled.
    I personally I’m not a fan of smart phone notifications. Having had a vivosmart for a year and a half and recently moved to a vivoactive, I’ve never used the smart phone notifications.
    Any chance of having a vivosmart and the alta in the same picture?

    Reply
  15. Peter Bartfai

    Does Fitbit products have smart alarm function? I mean, not just track, but woke you up in the right time based on your REM.

    Reply
  16. Graham

    Its awesome fitbit is allowing/supporting the multiple trackers – what i would love is the ability for them to support non-fitbit data as well – IE let me use my One, my Fenix, My Aria scale, smoosh it all together and let me compete with friends in fitbit challenges.

    Thats one thing i do miss since ditching my One.

    Reply
  17. kyle

    The fitness band market is becoming very stale. I guess they are just running out of ideas. This does the exact same things as the Fitbit Flex did 2 years ago except now it has a screen to do call/text notifications.
    You could say that samething about the fitness watches too….look at Garmin, they put in an optical HR into the Fenix 3 and its a whole new product. They changed a couple things software wise and called it a Tactix.
    Suunto is releasing the Run, Vertical and Traverse when all they are Ambit 3 units with a couple more software tweaks and the GPS bump is taken out.

    Reply
    • Matthew B.

      If I had to guess, battery technology is likely the biggest driver of the stagnation of the market.

      Reply
  18. Alan

    One wonders why all these things don’t have “normal” watch band closers. Or if people are worried about getting the strap caught, some concept like the Apple watch where the band gets tucked in.

    My suggestion is that you review more of these fit trackers, like the Jawbone Up3 that has electromagnetic determination of heart rate. Why stick to just fitbits and garmins (mostly). Or consider these bands in a separate category and do less detailed reviews or just do “first looks” but on more products.
    Could be time to hire a staff!

    Alan

    Reply
  19. Hi Ray,

    Thanks for this first look, brilliant piece of work, as always !

    Found out a little misleading info in there : you mention the Charge HR at the beginning of the article saying it has smartphone notifications, while it hasn’t. Just like the Charge, the Charge HR on carries caller id.

    Reply
    • Are you talking about this:

      “This unit is effectively a replacement for the existing Fitbit Charge (or previous to that, the Force). However, unlike those, this unit sports smartphone notifications, move reminders, and the ability to auto-recognize workouts (only the Charge HR has smartphone notifications, the Charge just does caller ID).”

      Which part is inaccurate?

      Reply
    • Matthew B.

      Charge HR has caller ID only — Surge has Call and Texts.

      Reply
    • Ahh, got it.

      Reply
    • Correct !

      Reply
  20. Juro

    Does this mark the end of fitness tracker innovation in terms of functions and focus on form and functions? Looks like it, based on Alta and Blaze.

    By the way, Charge HR and Surge already have automatic activity detection and categorization… it’s a surprisingly handy feature, great to see it being pushed down the stack.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      I imagine we’ll see more smaller form functions that include heart rate too.

      but yes $129 seems overpriced for what it does. Their older versions can be had under $50 and still count steps.

      Reply
  21. Gabe

    So this is what Fitbit believes will turn things around for the company? Yeesh – Talk about lipstick on a pig.

    Ray i believe you spent more time creating this blog than they did creating the Alta.

    Reply
    • Kyle

      While I agree with you its no different than Garmin slabbing a couple functions in the Fenix 3 and calling it a Tactix. Suunto is doing the same thing with their line by just adding a couple software features that they can easily add in the 1-2 year old version of the watches and calls them a new product line.
      I think the fitness tracker/watch industry is at a standstill right now. I think the biggest problem as someone stated before is battery life.

      Reply
  22. Kevin F

    Honestly, Fitbit has learned nothing since the Force.The strap is terrible on the Alta. I can see the endless stream of people to lose them just like their other models without proper straps. I agree that waterproofing is something these devices need. But cause these devices are cheap in almost all ways, except cost .. it is cheaper for Fitbit to just keep replacing them. They are far away from having a descent device. I for one am not in the least impressed with their poorly designed products.

    Reply
  23. Jessica

    I am considering the purchase of a Fitbit Alta BUT I am a little hesitant. I had previously looked into purchasing a Fitbit at the beginning of the year but I knew I wanted a heart rate monitor for when I run because the one on our treadmill is… well worthless. I am pretty new to starting to work out, I do not require a continuous heart rate monitor as in 24/7 but I would like one that would track my heart rate when I am on the treadmill or doing one of my beachbody dvds. Will the alta track my heart rate during periods of high activity or just not at all and I would need to purchase the Charge HR? I don’t mind the price of the Charge HR but I sure do love the look of the new Alta. BTW, for syncing purposes, I use MyFitnessPal and am a Samsung Galaxy S5 user. Thanks for any help, sorry for being such a rookie! :)

    Reply
    • Juro

      Alta does not track HR at all.

      Reply
    • Juro

      In the Fitbit family, the options are Charge HR and Surge. For steady treadmill running, Charge HR is sufficient (tracks HR well unless there are spikes and changes in conditions).

      Reply
    • Jessica

      Thank you so much for responding! Ordered the Charge HR – L teal :)

      Reply
    • Jay

      I’m wondering which to get the Charge HR or Alta.

      Does the Charge HR already have sports smartphone notifications, move reminders, and the ability to auto-recognize workouts?

      What is the difference between the two? They’re the same price in the UK.

      Reply
    • Jay

      Just a note that the heart rate monitoring feature isn’t that accurate on the Charge HR

      Reply
    • Adam

      Disagree. For steady state activities (running / walking) it works well. For high intensity (CrossFit / HIIT), it fails, at least for me.

      Reply
    • David

      Jay: the Charge HR only lacks smartphone notifications… it will buzz and show caller ID with an incoming call, but won’t notify you for texts etc. mainly due to its tiny screen. Thats the “big” advantage of the Alta, but sadly no HR in the Alta. I am still much happier with the Charge HR.

      Reply
    • Alan

      Polar A300 or Loop with H7 strap is still the most accurate. And usually the Polar straps transmit to most treadmill displays.

      Reply
  24. Paul

    Very curious that they didn’t make it more waterproof and it looks like they left off Stairs Climbed feature on the Alta (something that was available on the charge). Not sure about their strategy on this tracker, you’d think that Fitbit would add enough new stuff to encourage previous owners to want to go out and buy the latest thing. I don’t see that working here (except that is better looking than the Charge).

    Reply
  25. Pax

    Ray – It seems there is a disconnect – the people that buy the higher end garmin/polar…etc fitness watches, know what they are getting and accept the tradeoffs. The lower cost fitness trackers buyers, sometimes expect the accelerometer to work wonders, long battery life and heart rate sensors that work properly 24 hours a day…along with software that can do everything for everyone, but is easy to use.

    Read the forums from any brand you get the idea that the current generation can be ultra picky and Bimodal – some understand tech other don’t. I am not sure if anyone will every be happy with these… since the $30 toy tracker with HR from xiaomi will always be cheaper.

    Of course they need accurate calorie counting. How dare the device not be able to tell the difference between pushing a shopping cart and cycling.

    Above all It is so important that calories be accurate – even though it is only provides a relative approximation. I get the idea that this literally is all about the “I want to have my CAKE and EAT it too”.

    Reply
  26. Paul Allen

    Sorry, but “call, text and calendar notifications” is NOT the same as “Smartphone notifications”.

    Fitbit must really love lawsuits.

    Reply
    • Adam

      Is the information coming from a Smart Phone? If yes, smartphone notifications seems like the right terminology. You can’t project the fact that you want additional smartphone notifications beyond calls, text, and calendars and say it’s the basis of a lawsuit.

      Reply
    • Paul allen

      I guarantee that the vast majority of people will believe that means it provides whichever notifications the phone provides, not an extremely limited subset.

      Reply
    • JLO

      Seriously if people review and actually read about the product it states,calls, texts, and calendars notifications.
      Anyone that complains about smartphone notification is just being petty then.

      Reply
  27. DCR, I see Garmin has a new watch, the Quatix 3 which is a combination of running, boating, activity tracker, etc.

    Reply
  28. Danielle

    I have a Fit bit charge and I would like to upgrade. I cycle alot in summer but my Fit Bit Charge doesn’t record my cycling. Which would you recomend? Surge or a Tom Tom sports watch?

    Reply
  29. Paul K.

    I’m going to pass. FitBit has wasted my time too much in the past due to poor design/build quality and support. Sure they sent me a new unit each time mine broke but I had to waste my time/energy haggling with their offshore support people to make it happen. I want devices in my life that continue to work after more than 3 months. From my experience I don’t believe FitBit is committed to this goal.

    Reply
  30. Mary

    I’ve been comtemplating purchasing the Surge. The Alta would be perfect if it tracked floors climbed, and was waterproof (it would be worth extra cost). Still undecided.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Sorry, I was considering the Charge, not the Surge. After ready other posts, l want to add that it would be great if it counted biking/spinning. Waterproof would certainly be nice for swimming.

      Reply
  31. Patrick

    Hi Ray, keen to pick your brains a bit on activity tracker options if thats ok.
    i have a garmin fr920xt for real exercise, so i am not interested in sports capabilities of a activity tracker. i am keen to get HR though as one of my big interests is in using it to monitor sleep quality and recovery – resting HR etc. Its hard to get detail of which products/platforms provide what there. otherwise a clock is a must have and smartphone notifications would be handy. being in the garmin stable already the vivosmart hr or vivofit 2 are obvious choices but i’m not really too bothered about keeping everything in garmin connect and anyway it seems most things (including vivosmart) can get to connect via myfitnesspal etc. my wife has a fitbit so that would be another obvious brand but really i’m open to anything and just want the best product for my purpose. thanks

    Reply
  32. Rob Montgomery

    Stinks that for those with larger wrists (XL) they only make one option, black. No replacement bands, leather bands, or anything else that is in XL.

    Reply
  33. Sheila Lawrence

    After having three replacements for my Charge in twelve months because of the faulty bands that keep breaking all the time I would be very nervous of buying any Fitbit band again. Customer Support are fab but all I really want is something that lasts. Hopefully, the replacement bands will be much better. I would definitely need to wait a while though to see if this 3rd re-generation is any better than its predecessors.

    Reply
  34. Micah

    This look a ton like my Garmin Vivosmart. Almost like a Fitbit. copy.

    Reply
    • Den

      But the display isn’t blurry, steps are accurate, it doesn’t disconnect (if it’s as good as the Flex) and if the band gets banged up you can replace it. I wear the Flex because it connects to UHC to track my steps and I get the insurance discount. Jawbone finally has a dependable product in the UP2/3 and I think this will be more dependable than the Flex.It has move notifications and when I take a quick 15 minute walk, it’s always there to record the activity. There is a lot to say for devices like this, it depends on your needs. Me, I know when I’m more active my weight goes down. I don’t care about logging food, I know what to eat to be healthy. It’s sitting in front of the computer working too long that is my problem, but I also like my job and being employed. :) On the other had, I am more aware of the need to move.

      Reply
  35. Jessica

    Does the Fitbit Alta tell time???

    Reply
  36. What a useful prevew of the article. Its even a hands on as you had the activity tracker in your hands.
    What I like a lot about the device is that FitBit finally integrate the activity alert if you do not move within an hour. Really useful!

    I hope that this feature comes in some higher end products like a new charge HR or that hey even deliver it via firmware upgrade (which I doubt).

    You did not mention the weekly goals you can set now 😉

    Reply
  37. Kathryn

    Do we see an Alta HR on the horizon? Love the look of this!

    Reply
  38. Amanda

    I preorders and just want to know when it goes on sale. Cant find that information anywhere….

    Reply
    • It’s expected to start shipping in March (but not clear if that’s beginning/middle/end).

      Reply
  39. Allan aviado

    Hello DC rainmaker. We love all of your reviews. We see that you have the Fitbit Alta already! Is there anyway that you can give us the dimensions of the Alta’s screen? Thank you.

    Reply
  40. Robin J

    I may be the minority here- but I am a techie (so it’s not like I don’t use notifications) and I bought an Apple Watch when it came out, and it was something I hated!!! Why did my notifications have to mirror my phone? Yes we could tweak some things about our watch but I hated notifications on my wrist. I wanted the basics- phone, text, fitness. It is because of the rest that I sold the watch, I didn’t want to be a slave to social media. I use social media on breaks etc but all day was just too much. I love how the Alta is simple and does what is necessary. I think Fitbit did a great job

    Reply
    • Strange. Because the Apple Watch actually doesn’t double-notify you (in fact, I believe it’s the only smartwatch on iOS that doesn’t). When the Apple Watch receives a notification, the phone doesn’t also buzz – only the watch. Whereas when Fitbit/Garmin/whomever receive a notification, your phone also buzzes.

      Reply
  41. Nuno

    Hi there Ray.
    Is it possible to map your run if you use the Fitbit Alta with the Fitbit App (GPS) on the smartphone?

    Reply
  42. Nathan Budd

    The only people I get a text message from nowadays are either my bank or my nan! Everyone else I know uses WhatsApp, so these notifications are effectively useless to me!

    On the same topic, my Garmin Edge 520 is *supposed* so show WhatsApp notifications but doesn’t. Shows texts and calls, but no WhatsApp.

    :(

    This making the lack of notifications on this fitbit even more of a non-starter!

    Reply
    • I don’t believe the Edge 520 is supposed to actually, only call/text notifications, not 3rd party apps.

      Reply
    • Nathan Budd

      That’s strange. The 520 advertises “smartphone notifications” and there’s an option for it in the Garmin Connect app.

      Also, my wife’s Forerunner 25 shows her WhatsApp notifications, so I don’t see any reason that the 520 couldn’t/shouldn’t, other than Garmin don’t want it to?!

      Reply
  43. somecows

    Here’s question, Ray, if you have time: If there are some days when you don’t feel like wearing a bracelet, can you pop the tracker part out of the band part and put it on your pocket, turning it into a sort-of Zip or One? Or does it have to be on your wrist in order to work properly/accurately?

    Reply
    • Generally yes, I’ve had good luck with that across the board on activity trackers (haven’t tried it with Alta though).

      Reply